Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall - for Tween Tuesday

Tween Tuesday was started over at Green Bean Teen Queen as away to highlight awesome books for the 9-12 yr olds or Tweens. Any book highlighted on Tween Tuesday also counts for the In the Middle Reading Challenge! This week's book is:

Hahn, Mary Downing. The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall. Boston: Clarion Books, 2010. Print.
[Book cover credit: librarything.com/work/9790662]

When Florence's uncle sends for her, taking her from Miss Medleycoate's Home for Orphan Girls and offering her a place in his home, she thinks her life must be finally looking up. When she gets to Crutchfield Hall, she finds her uncle to be wonderful and caring but away a lot on business. She's left with a crotchety aunt who doesn't bother to hide her dislike of Florence, her sickly cousin James who refuses to leave his bed, and the oppressive memory of James' older sister Sophia who died a year earlier. But then Sophia's memory stops just being oppressive; Sophia becomes...persuasive.

Mary Downing Hahn was the author of my childhood nightmares.

Her books, especially Wait Till Helen Comes, terrified be as a child. The only time in my entire life that my mother limited the content of my reading was to not allow me to read her Hahn's books after dark. As I've admitted before, I scare easily, but Hahn's books scared everyone. I have a distinct memory of my friends Karen and Paige and I reading one of her books out loud at a slumber party. Later that night we were dared to go outside by Paige's sister. That's it, just go outside. We couldn't do it. Paige's sister put all our underwear in the freezer as our "consequence" for turning down the dare. We felt lucky. We were in the sixth grade. I'm pretty sure that stopped my torrid affair with Hahn's book, but I still remember them.

It was with this background that I picked up The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall, expecting to be scared. And I wasn't. It's not that I'm so grown-up now or so desensitized by years of scary books and movies that I hadn't been in late elementary-middle school. I admitted just a couple months ago that I couldn't read The Dead Boys right before bed. It's that Sophia wasn't all that scary. She's mean, but not evil; jealous, but has no power/knowledge to get what she wants. She's just a sad, spoiled girl who doesn't want to be dead and who will hang around grabbing everyone's attention with her antics and tantrums until she gets what she wants: a second chance at life. Because it's just nor fair! Especially when James gets to live. Sophia terrorizes James and tries to get Florence to help (and sometimes succeeds).

But it still wasn't scary.

Because the whole story revolved around Sophia and Florence and James' fear of her, The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall kind of fell apart for me. Younger readers who are not quite ready for the super-scary stuff but are still looking for a Halloween book will be happy with this one.

Readers who aren't expecting Mary Downing Hahn to always remind them why Joey is right to be afraid of little girl ghosts* might be happy with it too.

Book source: Arc picked up at ALA

*I tried to find a clip, but no dice:

Chandler: Joey, there was a little girl who lived here, but she died like 30 years ago.
(Joey's eyes double in size)
Joey: (frightened) What?
Chandler: Ha! I'm just messing with you.
Joey: That's not funny! You know I'm afraid of little girl ghosts!
- from http://www.friendscafe.org/scripts/s10/1014.php

You can also watch the whole episode online, if you want the visual. The scene I'm referencing is at about 17:30. :)


Jana said...

Great review! I always send my kids to Mary Downing Hahn for scary reads, but I think I need to revisit Wait Till Helen Comes myself!!

anachronist said...

Oh a scary children's book? Not a great deal, really! I can read it all the time! *anachronist hides under her bed and hugs her big fluffy teddy bear*.

Great review!

*she hides againg*